｢変｣Named Kanji of the Year
Not quite two weeks ago Jiyu Kokuminsha named Japan's Fashionable Word of the Year. Today, Nippon Kanji Noryoku Kentei Kyokai (The Japan Kanji Ability Certification Association) named Kotoshi no Kanji, or This Year's Kanji. Each year the group names a kanji, or Chinese character, to encapsulate the year's events.
This year's kanji is 変.
Pronounced hen, or with accompanying hiragana either kaeru or kawaru, the character means 'change', though it can also indicate 'unusual', 'eccentric', or in music a flat (as opposed to sharp) note.
Nikkei Net suggests that the kanji is indicative of changes in Japan's government and economy. A new Prime Minister took office this year, and promised early elections - though it now appears that the election will be put off until the spring. The global recession is also big news in Japan, where a sudden rise in the value of the Yen is also affecting business.
Coverage of the Kotoshi no Kanji on television news has also featured talk of the US presidential election. In addition to the fact that the US government is in the midst of a major change, 'Change' was Barack Obama's unofficial one-word campaign motto, and appears to be the name of his transition team.